“The language of sports is full of jargon used to signal inclusion. Being in on the dialect indicates expertise — being someone who lives in and understands traditions. Jargon can also act as a replacement for original thought and provides a way to anesthetize the speaker and their audience from the human realities and consequences of sports. The conversation around the NFL Draft demonstrates this power of jargon in shaping the idea of football and its athletes: We’ve begun looking at players and their bodies through the cliches and expressions they are confined to.
“Terms like ‘elite,’ ‘draft stock,’ and ‘big board’ are used by experts and fans to signal belonging. Players are reduced to ambiguous descriptors, like ‘gunslinger’ and ‘winner.’ More troublesome, this path of reduction and obscurement leads to whitewashing a history of domestic violence as ‘character concerns,’ homosexuality dismissed as a ‘distraction,’ and black athletes portrayed as monsters and brutes. ‘Freak’ and ‘machine’ are treated as endearing descriptions, and the suspicion that a black quarterback can’t ‘read a defense’ tries to hide the racist idea that black people are not as smart as their white counterparts.
“This corrupted language leads to corrupted thinking. The banality of most jargon, in making sure to hide reality behind doublespeak, inevitably escalates to lightly coded bigotry. Jargon lets old prejudices and racist tropes run amok, disguised as sporting truths. To help untangle these euphemisms, we created a glossary to decode NFL evaluations, separated by levels of nefariousness that even Dante would appreciate. And in that spirit, let us take you on a journey …” [. . .] –Zito Madu & Charles Mcdonald, Sbnation, 2018